25 Rajouri, Poonch youths held hostage in PoK camps
2 June 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: At least 25 youths from twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri have been held hostage by Pakistan Army in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and were not being allowed to infiltrate into Indian territory with the fear of their surrender. This information has been revealed by Mohammad Irshad, 22, son of Lal Hussain Gujjar, a resident of Jugal, Mendhar in Poonch district who recently managed to escape from Bagh Hari Gala camp of Pakistan army in PoK and reached Indian territory via Sein Miran Ziarat on the LoC in Mandi area of Poonch district. Intelligence sources told the Excelsior after sustained questioning of Irshad that Pakistan army and Field Intelligence Unit (FIU) have stopped trusting the youths hailing from Poonch and Rajouri districts despite the fact that they had undergone arms training in different PoK and Pak camps for a period ranging between one to three years. The surrendered militants disclosed that all 25 trained militants from Rajouri and Poonch now have been held hostage by Pakistan army and FIU officials in different army and militant camps and their movement has either been completely restricted or was monitored to ensure that they don’t cross over to other side of the LoC. 'Like me, all 25 militants from Rajouri and Poonch have refused to take the task of militancy including acting as fidayeens, as asked for by Pakistan army. All 25 militants of the twin border districts want to surrender after their return but curbs have been imposed on them', Irshad told the interrogators. All 25 youths had also given a written submission to Irshad urging him to handover the same to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to facilitate their release from PoK camps. However, Irshad, lost the letter while crossing the LoC, sources said, adding Irshad managed to escape from the camp due to collective efforts of Poonch and Rajouri youths, held hostage there. Irshad, according to sources, came in contact with Mohd Aslam son of Mohd Hussain in Androot area of Chingus, Rajouri who helped him in fleeing from the PoK camp and revealed the route leading to Loran area of Mandi sector in Poonch district. On reaching LoC, he raised his hands and surrendered to Army. Irshad had gone to Katarmal forests in Mendhar for collection of woods on April 16, 2002 when he was kidnapped by six militants, four of them identified as Hakim, Ismail, Mushtaq and Qayoom, who took him to Guntrian from where he was taken to the shrine of Peer Baba Sain Miran Saheb near Budha Amarnath cave. On April 20, 2002, he was taken to PoK and handed over to Pakistan Rangers. The FIU agents questioned him in their office the next day and then handed him over to the ISI officials, where he underwent 'jehadi courses' at Rawlakote Kahai Gali and Chak Lala camps for seven months. As Irshad initially showed reluctance to undergo a fidayeen and IED manufacturing course, the ISI officials got him sentenced and lodged him at Hadyala Jail in Rawalpindi. In the same jail, 12 other youths from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir were also lodged as they too had refused to act as fidayeens. Names of some youths, whom Irshad met in Hadyala jail, were recalled by him as Sakhi Mohd son of Mir Mohd R-o Digwal, Talib Hussain son of Wali Mohd R-o Mendhar, Manga Sheikh, Ashraf Bashir, Liaquat Ali and Rehmat Ali, all residents of Uri, Baramulla and Mohd Rafiq of Kupwara. After torture in jail, Irshad finally agreed to join militancy and was taken to Basnara militant training camp in Muzaffarabad where he found 4,000 youths undergoing training in handling of arms, explosives and making IEDs. As Irshad belonged to Mendhar, he was given training by a Mendhar militant, Ashfaq Parwal R-o Ari, who was operating as ‘launching commander’ of Hizbul Mujahideen in PoK. Then, he was taken for rigorous training like fidayeen and sneak attacks at Bladi camp in Kotli where dreaded ultras of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami were being trained. He also worked as an assistant of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salah-ud-Din for 3 months and was then posted in Maltu terrorist camp, where he saw a huge number of rocket launchers being packed and transported in Pakistan army trucks towards the LoC. Irshad said he learnt at Maltu camp that rockets were being dumped on the LoC for taking them to Jammu and Kashmir by infiltrating militants. He also visited Kagosh, Bladi, Sansa, Samani and Peer Gali camps in Kotli where he saw a number of youths from J&K undergoing training. It was only for last six months that youths from Rajouri and Poonch have been barred from infiltration in view of a number of surrenders, sources said. Irshad revealed that it was on the basis of a FIU report to the ISI and Pakistan army that youths from Rajouri and Poonch were held hostage in the PoK camps.